Review: Phineas and Ferb Ride Again (Nintendo DS)

Phineas and Ferb Ride Again
Developer: Altron
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Genre: Action/ Platformer
Release Date: 09/14/10

Phineas and Ferb, the series, is a cartoon containing the zany adventures of two slightly malformed but good-natured step-brothers/inventors/super-geniuses. The eponymous duo get into all sorts of wacky hi-jinks like hanging out with aliens, unfreezing cavemen and traveling around the world. Phineas’s older sister Candace, Ferb’s step-sister, serves as comedic foil. She is constantly thwarted in her continuing efforts to “bust” them. By the time she drags her mother to the site of one of their outlandish escapades, nothing appears out of the ordinary.

But Phineas and Ferb is not satisfied with merely one level of Michigan J. Froggishness. Unbeknownst to our main characters, their pet Platypus is also a secret agent. When everybody is looking his is just Perry, a perfectly normal pet platypus. When their backs are turned, he moonlights as Agent P, a super-spy set to save the Tri-state area from the not particularly evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

It’s astounding that which such madcap source material, the game is so mundane. The bulk of the game revolves around Phineas and Ferb setting about to complete a task (e.g. building a skateboard) and then fetching the parts needed for that project by means of a mediocre platformer. Not that the game is as simple as all that, though; it is also a remarkably easy puzzle game, a below average racing game, a weak shooter, and another attempt at Disney to push their creepy DS Dgamer avatar system.

Time is fleeting for some of the mini-game, but usually Phineas and Ferb are in no hurry. It is a low pressure sort of game, which is probably good for something marketed towards children. If a character misses a jump, he is rescued at the last moment by either a mini force-field or a backpack helicopter. (It’s weirdly evocative of Jean Grey saving your characters in the Sega Genesis X-men.) Falling doesn’t do damage, but it does decrease your Candace meter. When that meter empties, Candace declares that “you’re so busted” and chases you around a world specific labyrinth in a Pac-man-esque mini-game. Lose that game and, well, your Candace meter re-fills and not much else seems to happen.

Madness takes its toll when you realize that the show’s Bowling for Soup theme song is absent. Nearly every episode of Phineas and Ferb has a big musical number or music video of an original song. This is not the case in the game. Music has definitely taken a backseat. I’m not saying that it is bad; in fact, I found myself humming the looping earworm after powering down. It’s just that the ditties included are fairly generic and not particularly exciting. I was expecting more from the show that brought us such numbers as “The Hemoglobin Highway”, “The Flyin’ Fishmonger”, “Paul Bunyan’s Pancake Haus”, and “S.I.M.P (Squirrels In My Pants)”.

But listen closely and you will hear some of the audio from the show. Isabella’s signature “Whatcha doin?” is thankfully one of the few voice clips in the game. Otherwise, you are in for a world of text, which of course means a lot of reading for the younger set. My seven year old was able to figure things out fairly easily, but younger kids and weaker readers may struggle here.

I’ve got to keep control of my emotions, when talking about the Perry sections though. In some ways, these are the highlights of the game. Who wouldn’t want to be a secret agent platypus, throwing his hat to kill robots and plant monsters? The problem here is that these sections of the game actually put up a fight. There not tremendously difficult, but tend towards No More Heroes boss battle on sweet in terms of hardness. That is to say, a lot of “dodge, then attack.” This can be jarring when one the rest of the game essentially cannot be lost. The Perry levels don’t even afford you a simple check-point between fighting the goons and fighting Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

I remember the stiff controls of the Perry sections most of all. Compared to the Phineas and Ferb parts, it feels like a completely different game. Basically, you do the Phineas and Ferb parts and they play like a standard “Ëœ90s platformer blended with some “Ëœ00s style DS stylus mini-games. After that section, you get to the project section. The first one is a skateboarding game whose controls and gameplay compare negatively to Skate or Die on the NES. Another is a very basic 3D space shooter. Another is a surfing mini-game that plays like baby’s first Tony Hawk. After the project section, the Perry sections finish off each world. These parts play more like a twenty year old PC game that came with the install disc.

Doing the Time Warp? Yes, but throwback games aren’t all that PaFRA evokes. With its collecting of questionably useful widgets, reliance on swapping between two characters with different skills to solve not particularly puzzling puzzles, and un-lose-ability, the game sure feels like a Lego title. Actually, it comes out all right in comparison to underwhelming DS ports of Lego games. If you enjoy Lego Batman on the DS, you can probably squeeze a bit of fun out of Phineas and Ferb Ride Again.

Drinking those moments of enjoyment and combined with the charms of the show, it is easy to forgive PaFRA its sins. It isn’t a fantastic, but each part of the game is playable and there is enough variety of gameplay to keep things from getting too monotonous.

When the blackness would hit me, and the game would be completed, I wondered “what then?” The game offers few nuggets of replayabiliy. Each world has some mementos and one photograph to collect. You can also “customize” each project by collecting optional parts, though these don’t change their underwhelming gameplay in any exciting way.

And the void would be calling, if you went looking for your saved game after somebody started a new one. Apparently, this is a one save slot game. This is something that would have been nice to know when my daughter wanted to play from the beginning. Normally, games warn you that starting new will erase the old, not so here.

With a bit of a mind flip, you might be able to use the cheat codes PaFRA give you. Upon beating the last level, the game says “Next time try these cheat codes.” It then precedes to give you three or four unlabeled cheats along the lines of ABBAUpDownUpDownBABA. By the time I grabbed a pencil, they had disappeared.

And nothing can ever be the same. I was tempted to replay the final Perry stage to try to get the code again or to replay the credits, but I didn’t see how. The platforming levels, the project levels, and even the Candace labyrinth stages can easily be accessed through the main section. I am somehow night bright enough to find where the Perry stages are hidden. It makes you feel stupid not being able to find something in a kids game.

Like you’re under sedation or something.

The Scores:

Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Above Average
Control/Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Mediocre
Balance: Below Average
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal: Good
Miscellaneous: Poor
Final Score: Mediocre Game

Short Attention Span Summary
Phineas and Ferb Ride Again is a mix of mediocre gaming elements tied together with a four part story that reads more like fan-fic than the actual show. It should be interesting enough and easy enough for the Second Grade set. I don’t imagine it is the sort of game, they would want to play for more than a week or so, but it can be fun while it lasts.



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